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Dr Saad Eskander, Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive, wins award

Dr Saad Eskander, Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive (INLA), has been given the prestigious Archivist of the Year Award by New York's Scone Foundation at a ceremony at Columbia University in New York on 12 November. The honour was conferred on Dr Eskander in recognition of his leadership of the reconstruction of the INLA following its burning and looting in 2003.

The Award is presented annually by the Scone Foundation to recognise an archivist or archival researcher who has made a considerable contribution to the profession and who has provided important support to scholars conducting research in history and biography. Stanley Cohen, President of the Foundation, said that he established the award when he realised that there were no programmes to recognise outstanding archivists. Dr Eskander is the fifth recipient of the award.

Dr Eskander used the opportunity of his acceptance speech to urge the US Government to return Iraqi documents seized by the US military since they belonged to the Iraqi people and represented an important part of Iraq's heritage. Stanley Cohen, President of the Scone Foundation, introduced him by offering a general review of the importance of archives in a free and open democratic society, and deploring the Bush Administration's Executive Orders which reversed a presumption of disclosure for one of secrecy that will constrain public access to presidential documents.

The Award was presented to Dr Eskander by Andy Stephens, Secretary to the British Library Board. The British Library has hosted Dr Eskander's diary blog on its website at http://www.bl.uk/iraqdiary.html.

Stephens said:"Saad Eskander has succeeded single-mindedly in restoring the INLA to a semblance of professional normality while operating under quite unimaginable odds. Against the breakdown of civil society in Iraq he has maintained a clear sense of the importance of national archives to the development of a democratic and secular society. His is a quite remarkable achievement".